Part 1 of The Cooking with Grandma Chronicles


Grandma’s mother, who hated to cook, nonetheless kept a notebook of handwritten recipes, many of them handed down from her own mother. This recipe is cryptically called “crunch” and during baking the mixture runs all over the baking sheet, browning to a giant golden wafer rather like peanut brittle. We were all set to throw it out as a failure when Leo started to nibble on the results. Scrumptious! You can eat it like a candy or transform it to delicious cookies by adding a cup of flour as suggested here.

Makes about 15 2-inch/5-cm cookies

1 cup/80 g rolled oatmeal

1 cup/125 g flour

½ cup/35 g shredded coconut

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 heaping tablespoon/80 g golden syrup

2 tablespoons water

¼ cup/60 g butter

¼ cup/60 g sugar

13×18-inch/32×45-cm sheet pan or bar cookie pan

1. Heat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F and set a shelf in the centre of the oven; butter the sheet pan, line it with parchment paper and butter the paper. Stir together the oatmeal, flour, coconut and baking soda in a medium bowl. Heat the golden syrup, butter and sugar over low heat in a small pan, stirring until melted and smooth. Stir the golden syrup into the oatmeal mixture to make a rough dough that pulls from the sides of the bowl. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of the dough onto the sheet pan, setting them well apart. With a fork dipped in water, flatten the mounds to make 2-inch/5 cm rounds.        

2. Bake the cookies in the oven until golden brown, 10-12 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet 2-3 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely. They can be stored, layered in paper, in an airtight container for several days.


Dear Friends,

Announcing the happy news that I’m starting a series of posts entitled The Cooking with Grandma Chronicles, available exclusively on A couple of times each month, I’ll share a story and/or a recipe, even a drawing or poem. These posts celebrate my time in the kitchen with my five grandchildren, whom I’m proud to say all enjoy cooking and eating as much as I do. It has been a pleasure to have Sophia, Leo, Lucy, Xenia and Nina join me at the stove learning the recipes I treasure. These dishes go back to my Yorkshire childhood and extend to family favorites gathered from life in France, the USA, England and travels around the world. Cheese balls with just three ingredients – a touch of mustard is our runaway favorite.

As a cooking teacher and cookbook writer, I have so enjoyed being in the kitchen with my grandchildren that I thought I would share that joy with all of you. I hope that you will share these stories and recipes with your own grandchildren, grandparents and others you cherish. I look forward to hearing what you’ve chosen to cook. Do send me your comments.

Watch this space for new Cooking with Grandma Chronicles and make sure you follow me on @AnneWillan on Twitter and @annewillanlv on Instagram for updates. You can also sign-up to the La Varenne e-mail list if you would like these new posts in your Inbox.

Bon Appétit, Anne

Summer Week 1

Here is a poem written by my Grandson Leo

COOKING WITH GRANDMA, by Leo Schulkin aged 12

I love cooking with Grandma …

Because she teaches me things I never knew before

I love cooking with Grandma …

Because she helps me if I get stuck in a muddle

I love cooking with Grandma …

Because her instructions are so clear so I can follow along

I love cooking with Grandma …

Because we can test recipes that I never knew before

You are always in my heart

I love you Grandma no matter what happens

The Cooking with Grandma Chronciles

Watch this space! I’m excited to announce a new project. The Cooking with Grandma Chronicles are coming soon exclusively on Here are my family’s favorite recipes, spiked with pictures, drawings, poems, short stories, and more. To be first in the know, make sure you’re signed up to the La Varenne mailing list (please email

#Cookingwithgrandma #Annewillan


The Story of La Varenne Pratique

by Anne Willan

La Varenne Pratique is the biggest book I have ever written, running to 528 pages. The core of the book includes more than 600 recipes and 1,100 color pictures of cooking techniques ranging from how to slice, dice and chop an onion to the correct way to cut a chicken into 8 pieces for coq au vin. It was put together in the late 1980s and took two years to write. I was using cutting-edge technology, an early Sony desktop machine with a vertical screen the shape of a book page. I had simply to indicate what subjects were covered on the page; the actual layouts were for the book designer, a complex mix of text, captions, headers, subheads, technique sequences and mug shots of finished recipes. My job was to supply the text and recipes for the book, plus the images for the technique sequences. Images of the finished dishes were shot separately in London.

The project began in Washington DC, where my husband was working at the time. One wall of our railroad apartment was quickly lined with shelves of cookbooks. I tracked down an editorial trainee whose mother ran a publishing company in London, so she already knew the ropes. Our chief recipe-tester was a Paris-trained chef, thus the core team was assembled. During the following months, we established the text, consisting of factual introductions and sidebars, with the full story told by hundreds and hundreds of captions. The chef tested at least a couple of hundred recipes before we were ready for the next stage.  

For shooting the technique sequences, we moved to France where I was running La Varenne Cooking School in Paris and thus had access to our teaching chefs and also the trainees from all over the world who had come to learn French cooking at the source. Our chef de cuisine was Claude Vauguet, a handsome man in his forties, who was endlessly good-natured and cheerful with, most importantly, plain strong hands that fell effortlessly into the right angles for the hundreds of technique shots. The only preparation that flummoxed him was extracting the blade from cuttlefish, and for that we were able to consult our Portuguese dishwasher.

To have housed the chef and half a dozen trainees in central Paris would have been hopelessly uneconomic, so for weeks at a time we settled on our newly acquired but rustic country property an hour away in Burgundy, a seventeenth-century château. Bathrooms might be scarce but there were plenty of bedrooms and the light in the north-facing kitchen was perfect for photography. Vegetables and fruits were to hand in the walled potager garden out the back door. Trainees worked in shifts, starting at 7.00 a.m. with a visit to the local bakery for the 10 daily baguettes that fired our efforts. The day ended after we had dined on everything left over from the daily shooting schedule – the Fish and Shellfish chapter was a high point, Offal was a low. By the end, no one could face another Chocolate Truffle, though we never forgot the Rum top of fresh fruits preserved in alcohol, displayed in a vast glass tub on the mantelpiece in the kitchen. Neither fruits nor alcohol survived the final night’s shoot. Salud!

After being written in the USA and photographed in France, the bookwas first published in the UK as Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Cookery before being re-christened La Varenne Pratique for its American debut; it went on to a dozen languages and sold more than 500,000 copies. While no longer in print, hard copies are scarce and treasured commodities, but you can purchase it as an e-book in four parts. To anyone who went to La Varenne Cooking School, and to many chefs and cooks who did not, it was called the bible. It remains one of the most comprehensive and visual books ever published on how to cook pretty much everything.

Mather Telephone Topic Event

On Tuesday 8th September, Anne Willan will be taking part in a Mather Telephone Topic, at 7:30 a.m. PT / 9:30 a.m. CT / 10:30 a.m. ET
Anne Willan is the founder of École de Cuisine La Varenne, one of the most famous cooking schools in the world. Considered by many as the English version of Julia Child, Anne is the author of popular cookbooks, including her latest, Women in the Kitchen, which traces the origins of American cooking through profiles of 12 essential women cookbook writers. She joins us live from England to talk about the book and about her life and career in food.
There are two ways to join the call:
Call-in number: (855) 880.1246 or join us online:
Enter Meeting ID: 386 399 7030

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The Getty Museum Zoom Event

Join Anne Willan for a presentation about her new book, Women in the Kitchen.

Event to take place on Saturday 26th September at 10 am PT

More details to follow.


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Women in the Kitchen

(Scribner August 2020)

Culinary historian Anne Willan traces the origins of American cooking through profiles of twelve essential women cookbook writers—from Hannah Woolley in the mid-1600s to Fannie Farmer, Julia Child, and Alice Waters—highlighting their key historical contributions and most representative recipes.

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Women in the Kitchen: Culinary Historians Los Angeles

In this chat with Nancy Zaslavsky and in her latest book, Women in the Kitchen, Anne Willan focuses on twelve women cookbook writers beginning with two of the earliest to be published, both are English. Anne then traces the development of home cooking in America from colonial days to the transformative books of Julia Child, Marcella Hazan and then Alice Waters whose adamant use of local produce takes us into the modern food revolution.

Photo by Orlando Gili

Anne explains why she chose these twelve women cookbook writers who defined the way we eat from 1661 to today. She connects the influences of each woman in her respective era as well as how she stands on the shoulders of the one who came before. Anne tells us why these writers profoundly shaped domestic cooking, how their books stand out as iconic, and how they, one by one, helped align the way Americans cook and eat today.

Anne Willan has more than 50 years of experience as a cooking teacher, author, and culinary historian. The founder of famed French cooking school La VarenneAnne was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Hall of Fame for her “body of work” in May, 2013. She has also received the International Association of Culinary Professionals Lifetime Achievement Award, multiple James Beard Foundation Awards for her cookbooks, and was named Bon Appétit magazine’s Cooking Teacher of the Year in 2000. In July 2014, Anne was awarded the rank of Chevalier of the French the Légion d’Honneur for her accomplishments in promoting the gastronomy of France. Her more than 30 books include La Varenne Pratique, (1989); The Country Cooking of France, (2007); and The Cookbook Library, (2012).

Held on Saturday 12th September at 10.30AM PST

Location & Tickets:

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